When I realised this month’s travel link up topic was travel companions I knew I had to get involved. Why? Because mine are the BEST. I know you’re going to argue and say I’m biased… I haven’t tried yours… I’m not being objective… but seriously you can protest as much as you want, the bottom line is you won’t find a group like mine

(ok maybe I’m being far too literal here, please don’t be offended, I’m sure your companions are just fine)

Of course I’m not the type of person to make a sweeping statement and just expect you to roll with me, so let me break this down:

 

1. We’re family!

For most people this can be a pro and a con, but in our case it’s really just a pro. Being family means we can say what we think. We know each other’s habits. We know what makes each other tick, smile, laugh and means we can share clothes and whatever else one of us may have forgotten without feeling guilty.

 

 

2. They taught me how to share

Food that is. I’m quite possessive when it comes to what’s on my plate. I know what I like and I used to begrudge having to sacrifice even a morsel. I’ve started to ease up on the food selfishness and realised not only is food more fun in a group but we can try so much more! (Unless I’ve decided to order tuna toasties, no-one seems that assed about sharing those).

 

 

 

3. We’re a pool of knowledge.

I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but between us, we genuinely are a pool of knowledge. Travelling with others, you can easily sponge off each other’s random facts, memories, travel tales… I love how much you can learn from travelling with others.

 

 

4. We push each other to try new experiences

Ok so this ones not always a good thing. In fact every time they’ve pushed me into something it’s usually involved heights, resulted in me making a fool of myself and left the rest of them in fits of laughter. But when we’re together, we really do feel like we can give anything a shot (NOT jumping off anything above 10 feet though. No-one can make me do that). Even if I’m dying inside, if my fab four are with me I know it’s going to be ok. Although come to think of it, they did leave me for dead in a ball pool once… hmm….

 

 

5. We make each other laugh. A LOT.

All the time. I love travelling with a group where you can be one hundred percent yourself. When you can explore the world and be silly at the same time. Its funny because there are a lot of people who think I’m quiet, bit boring and keep to myself, but those that know me complain because I’m the complete opposite. When I travel with my F4 I can just be me, in all forms of craziness. It’s GREAT. For me anyway 😉

 

 

We’ve had some epic trips over the years, and nowadays our group is expanding, we’re bringing on new recruits and I feel there are many more fun trips ahead!

Just need to start planning the next one asap now…

 

 

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This month the travel linkup topic is . . . travel companions. They could be constant, occasional, animal, crazy or simply left at home. You tell us!
How to link up your post

Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th October), add it to the link up widget found on SilverSpoon London, Follow Your Sunshine, Adventures of a London Kiwi or on the blog of our lovely guest host Leona at Wandermust Family.

There are no rules – basically all we ask is that you check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved in that months travel link up; comments here and there, and tweet a few of the posts. It’s a great way to meet some new travel bloggers and share some blogging love!

The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers – as long as the post is relevant!

Follow:

 

A few weeks ago, I was invited along with two of my Fantastic Four to try out a pescatarian taste tour at Tampopo in the Trafford Centre.

Whenever we make a trip to the Trafford Centre (TC), there is always a designated collection of restaurants we tend to frequent. The number one spot, tends to be Las Iguanas, followed by the safe bet of Nando’s. Yang Sing slides comfortably into third and then it’s sort of pot luck with some of the others. I’d only ever visited Tampopo once, it wasn’t a personal choice, it was where our friends happened to be eating so I remember playing it super safe and ordering a pad thai and not much else, distracted more by the good company than the good food.

 

 

Being invited to a pescatarian taste tour was going to be a great opportunity to force me into being adventurous, rather than settling for the same old dishes at the same old places at a venue we visit quite regularly (TC is on our doorstep pretty much, so a lot more convenient than making a trip to the city).

Enough of me gassing, I think it’s time we got straight into it…

We arrived early doors, and were escorted to the far end of the restaurant where a few tables had been set for the supper club style evening event. Jo, the deputy manager came over and introduced herself, she was to be our host for the evening. She was bubbly and full of life and explained the elements that had been arranged on our tables and Laxmi took our drinks order to settle us in before the evening got started.

 

 

Drinks: Virgin mojito, virgin pina colada and mango on the rocks. The mojito wasn’t to my taste – purely as I’m not a massive fan of ginger. The mango on the rocks? Delicious. So good, it was mango on the rocks for everyone on round 2. Order it, trust me.

Drinks in hand, prawn crackers arrived as our amuse-bouche and needless to say like every good snack, they got devoured pretty sharpish (G didn’t even give us a chance 😉 ). Whilst the first starter was being prepared, Jo talked us through some of the ingredients placed on the table that we perhaps wouldn’t be familiar with. Asian basil, lemongrass, pickled ginger and mooli (a type of horseradish). Mooli was an interesting introduction, it smelt like feet (genuinely) yet it tasted delicious. I always find it quite difficult to wrap my head around those kind of situations.

 

 

At the start, I was slightly confused by the guide book on our table, but Jo pointed out that Tampopo keep a mini library of them at the back of the restaurant, for customers to help themselves to. Confused? Well, the owner of Tampopo started the chain off right here in Manchester after travelling through Asia, with a mission to bring the flavours back here to the UK. The guide books were just a lovely touch to get us excited and talking about travelling, reminiscing and planning future trips. As a travel obsessive you can imagine how much this pleased me!

 

 

Time for food.

 

Course 1: Coconut prawn & smashed cucumber salad

Thai inspired prawns made with coconut milk and desiccated coconut, great start and it contrasted well with the cucumber salad. Cucumber salad really doesn’t sound like an exciting dish, but this is no ordinary salad. The Asian flavours really stand out here, and theres a spicy kick which turns this green watery vegetable into a real firecracker.

 

 

Course 2: Curry Udon sweet potato

When this dish landed on my plate my eyes nearly popped out of my head. My number one food pet peeve was staring right at me. A floating boiled egg in my curry udon. Oh dear. Jo explained this was no ordinary floating boiled egg. This was a soy soaked specialty that complimented the fried sweet potato hidden amongst the udon noodles.

Ok, today was about being adventurous so I gave it a go. And of course, as expected, it wasn’t half as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. In fact, it was delicious. I’m not a fan of egg in food full stop, but it works. It was good, but I have to say the curry udon itself was amazing! It wasn’t too thick and the fried sweet potato was perfection

 

 

Course 3: Nasi royale prawn, with fried egg on top

So at this point, we were cleaning up dishes left right and centre and we were starting to get full. But we were just about approaching half way so we had to power through. Nasi royale was perfect but the best part of the course was watching Hafs and G have bursts of excitement everytime Jo brought out a new sauce. Especially Ketjap, my sister jumped for joy when the bottle landed, after having lived in Indonesia she explained that this was their equivalent to ketchup and it led to her drifting off into daydreams of all the amazing meals she had experienced.

 

 

Course 4: Green curry veg & hot and sour tofu

I’ve historically never liked tofu, I’ve tried it many times and there’s only ever been one time where I’ve enjoyed it and that was in the airport at Hong Kong (I was also starved at the time). The hot and sour tofu here was delicious, I would order this again. The only problem, the spice was so intense I felt like my head was going to explode. I’m not great with chilli, and this was way above my level of tolerable heat, but I couldn’t stop eating it! I did actually have to push my dish away, one because the spice was becoming crazy intense and two, I was trying my best to leave space to make it to dessert. The green curry was really good, Jo mentioned that if we enjoyed this, the red curry would be right up our street. Unlike other green curries I’ve had, this bowl was balanced, not too spicy and thankfully the cream wasn’t thick and stodgy.

 

 

Course 5: Roti pancake

We died. It was heaven. There was a real nostalgia to this dish – even though we’ve never actually eaten this before. When my sister and I were young, my mum used to make fresh chapattis. Fresh chapattis have a taste like no other, but my mum would make us an extra special treat, the minute the chapatti flew out of the pan she would spread butter on it, butter that seeped in to the pores and then just before it evaporated mum would sprinkle a layer of sugar and roll it up whilst it was still warm. This roti pancake was almost the exact same concept. Except it was laced with cinnamon, the roti was made of puffed layers and effortlessly light. I would return purely for this dish.

 

 

H, G and I couldn’t fault our evening at all. Everything from the service to the food quality was fantastic that night. We enjoyed every part but of course how good a meal is marked on whether you return…

Well the taste tour evening was two weeks ago – and I’ve been back twice since.

TWICE.

And each time I’ve returned I’ve ordered some of the favourites from the taste menu as well as one or two other new dishes – and the new dishes we’ve attempted have been even better would you believe. i.e. sticky chicken wings (minus rice wine).

 

 

And of course, as well as discovering the food quality gets better and better, so does the service. People always raise their eyebrows when I brag about service at blogger events, as they reckon we only get treated well because people may have an idea that we’re there to review. To be honest, I think you can always see through fake-good service, because at the end of the day we’re all human so people can have bad days and people can have good days. But I can assure you out of my three trips in less than three weeks, they were all good days. Not kidding, I could genuinely gush about the service all day.

AND the other amazing thing I’ve noticed – is the staff here don’t just know the menu, they KNOW the menu. As a Muslim, we obviously want to eat dishes that are halal, that don’t contain alcohol etc… they get it. The really understand it. Because even items on the menu that we presume are halal, they are quick to point out if it isn’t and how they can rectify it to suit us. I don’t think I’ve been to a restaurant that has ever been so accommodating on that level.

This evening was all about being transported on the Tampopo taste tour. Travel is a huge part of my life, it’s the essence of my blog, and I’ve often said that there are many different ways to reminisce about trips, and the tastes and smells of local food is one of the strongest.

With everything homemade, the finest ingredients imported and regular menu changes to keep everything current and up to date, Tampopo have ensured that our senses are truly satisfied throughout this journey. From the ambience, the knowledge, the literature, the food… from the simplicity of Japanese, to the complexities of Thai cuisine Jo and the team took us on that all important journey and we’ve been going back to re-visit it ever since.

 

 

*** Thank you to Jo, Laxmi and the whole team at Tampopo for a brilliant evening. The taste tour was complimentary but of course all opinions and photographs are my own and not edited. ***

Fancy trying it for yourself? Follow them on facebook and keep up to date with their taste tour events. 

 

 

Follow:

 

Earlier this year, I spent two weeks travelling around a country fast becoming a new tourist hot spot in Asia, Myanmar. I should point out that this is not at all why I wanted to go. Far from it, I had no idea that this country was heavily marketing its holiday agenda and my intrigue came mainly from old literature, such as Kipling’s stories and George Orwell’s tales of Burmese days.

One of the reasons I was going to reject the trip was because of the crisis which has made it into the mainstream news today. You should already know what I’m talking about and if you don’t, well it’s time to switch on and wake up to the suffering of the Rohingya.

This is not a new problem, it is one that dates back to the military coup back in the 60’s as far as I’m aware and it was very much of concern to me before I accepted the trip.

Should I really be spending my money in a country that is allowing what I believe is a genocide? A country that is turning it’s back on a very large group of people based on their religion? I was so torn, I had no idea what to do because although I didn’t support their actions, Myanmar is not a country of the West. In fact it has a very tumultuous political history and in the end my overall curiosity and desire to learn more overshadowed my guilt. I decided this was my opportunity to see things from the other side, perhaps learn a bit more about the country from within it, rather than focusing on what we are fed in the press.

Was I surprised by what I discovered? Oh yes, I was.

Coming back home I was again in two minds. On the one hand, as far as a holiday destination goes, Myanmar is a beautiful country, filled with beautiful, respectful people. One of the travellers in my group described it as being just like Cambodia before it became over-populated by backpackers. Although some tourist destinations were busy, it was relatively quiet compared to other far east Asian choices. At no point during my trip did I feel unsafe, did I feel worried as a Muslim traveller. In fact our guide was incredibly respectful of my religion, of me being Muslim. Which I wasn’t at all expecting, especially as the Rohingya are cast aside as outsiders for being Muslim.

Every new town we visited, he would point out halal restaurants, every meal he arranged for us he would advise what foods to avoid, and what drinks contained alcohol. I saw some beautiful mosques around our hotel in Mandalay and many people out and about in headscarves and religious clothing. Even in the Shan mountains, the activities we took part in catered to and respected Muslim travellers.

On the other hand, although I had no problems whatsoever travelling within the popular districts of this country, it was clear this is a country still living in fear and still lacking the one thing we in the West are being led to believe they have gained: freedom.

During one of our bus journey’s, our guide took it upon himself to explain the situation in Rohingya. I was shocked, really surprised that he would choose to address the topic. Even more shocked by the firmness in which he explained the army were in fact simply carrying out a service to protect the villagers from terrorists. It was all very clean cut, simply a war sparked from defending the welfare of innocent villagers. And once he explained the situation it was clear he was unwilling to discuss it any further.

I later learnt that the suffering of the Rohingya is in no way shape or form reported in the news in Myanmar. The crisis is brushed under the carpet, with no one wanting to speak about the situation, anyone who does so is risking their safety. At the time when I was visiting I heard all towns surrounding the crisis in Rakhine were blocked off to international visitors – including aid agencies. A clear sign this was surely an ethnic cleansing process the government simply wanted to pretend did not exist.

On the last day I spent in Yangon, one of the fabulous ladies I met who lived there told us about an exhibition by a German conceptual artist, Wolfgang Laib, who had chosen his Myanmar debut ‘Where the Land and Water End’ to be displayed in the Southeast wing of the Secretariat building.  This building only ever opens its doors once a year on a public holiday day so this was an incredible opportunity to be able to enter this very old, very famous government building.

The building was not just phenomenal, it was spine tingling to know that we were walking in the same halls, the same rooms that General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father not only worked, but also the very building in which he was assassinated in.

 

 

The Secretariat is still within a military complex and surrounded by guards, monitoring visitors and ensuring no photographs are taken of any of the surrounding area. I remember reading an article where a tourist feeling inspired had wanted to sketch elements of the building but was taken aside and told that this was a ‘military exhibition,’ giving you an idea at how strictly the exhibit is monitored and how important the junta still are.

Then comes the issue of the Nobel peace prize winning leader – the infamous Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

 

Where does she fit into all this?

I’m giving you a very brief insight into the history here, but when General Aung San was shot, so too was the hope for independence. Years later his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, inspired by Martin Luther King and Ghandi, went out of her way to campaign for democratic and peaceful elections. But the junta military weren’t ready for that and instead seized power in a coup, and Aung San Suu Kyi was detained under house arrest for fifteen years. Her release and democratic win was a huge moment for Myanmar. A huge vision of hope and promise that this was the beginning of a better future for a country that was being suffocated by militarisation.

The locals I spoke to held her in high regard, she was their saviour but it was clear they were under no illusion that since taking control everything was hunky dory. They knew she had a battle on her hands, they knew that hard times weren’t over yet, but they also knew that she was the only one who was willing to take on the task. I heard stories about how difficult it was living under the military regime, the fear, the hardship, the collective suffering. It’s this kind of living situation people like me and perhaps you can never imagine and I totally understand the reluctance of locals not wanting to get involved in anything political.

Literally 12 hours after I left Yangon, one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s advisors Ko Ni was assassinated right outside Yangon International Airport. No motive was ever uncovered. Ko Ni was a legal advisor for the National League of Democracy. Not just any legal advisor, a Muslim one. He had spoken out in the past about the military retains in Myanmar. An advocate of human rights, even credited with finding the loopholes in the 2008 constitution of Myanmar creating the office of state counsellor, which enabled Aug San Suu Kyi to become the de facto head of government.

He was also one of the few people documented in speaking out against the Myanmar laws that stripped the Muslim minority, the Rohingya, of their Burmese citizenship.

He was shot after returning from a trip to Indonesia, and his death would have been a huge blow to Aug San Suu Kyi’s government team, showing how fragile her government truly is. I knew nothing of Ko Ni until that point, and reading up on his career and life ambitions gave me hope at that time that Aug San had a real vision of creating a better future for her people, all her people.

We’re now coming up to a year since the violence in the Rakhine state took a dangerous turn. Although the violence towards the Rohingya started way back in the 70’s, over the last 12 months after the killings of nine border police, troops have been flooding the villages and the devastation they have caused and left behind, to us here in the UK, or wherever you may be, well it’s unimaginable.

This is a targeted attempt to wipe out a people. Killing men, women and children. Raping them. Torturing them. Burning them. Burning complete villages in fact.

Up until these last few weeks, I have defended Aug San Suu Kyi’s silence, convinced that this is beyond her control and that any vocal condemnation from her, would jeopardise her life and with that the future dream of freedom for Myanmar. So she has remained silent, or worse, blamed both sides.

I’m not defending her anymore. Because a very wise woman once said:

“It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

And that wise woman, was Aung San Suu Kyi herself. And this crisis, this mass execution that is taking place in her country deserves the voice and condemnation of their leading Nobel Peace Prize winner.

 

 

Many UN officials have spoken out against the ‘ethnic cleansing.’ How many of us have watched movies like Hotel Rwanda, read books on World War II and have said that we, we in this day and age would never allow this to happen in our lifetime. And yet here it is. There are many places in the world where oppression of a specific group of people still occurs and we shouldn’t let them go unnoticed.

We need to know about it. We need everyone to know about it. And we need to pressure from the ground up to try, we need to at least try, to do something.

Whether you help by donating to aid agencies, writing to your MP, setting up or attending protests in your area or by simply showing some compassion when the media turns to talk of the millions of fleeing refugees this crisis has and will cause, it’s important that we all do something.

I am sharing my thoughts with you, in the hope that the least you will do after reading this post is say a silent prayer or spare a though for the Rohingya. I have already written to my MP. Signed petitions and tomorrow I will hopefully be joining protestors in Manchester to shout loud and clear that we stand and will not be silent about this any longer.

I regret not talking about this sooner, but deep down inside I know Aung San Suu Kyi has the potential to do great things. Right now though, whether it be through intervention of another countries government or through the rising force of her own, urgent action needs to be taken.

This isn’t just a fight for the people of Rohingya, this is a fight we should all be taking seriously, for the sake of humanity.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

*** For anyone in Manchester or the surrounding area, there is a demonstration organised by drive for justice to protest against the Rohingya genocide. 1:30pm Manchester Piccadilly Gardens. More information can be found on their facebook page. ***

 

Follow:

 

A blogger weekend in Sheffield, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

Mo and I had a weekend break with Mercure last year in our home town of Manchester and we had loved it. So I did actually have high expectations for once.

When the time to set off actually came, it had been a long day at work. Mo and I were both shattered and our moods had started to deplete. The road to Sheffield was jam packed with roadworks and cars… not quite the scenic route we had in mind.

But things started to look up as we entered the city…

My first major observation, there are a lot of brown tourist signs. There seemed to be so much on offer in the area, I’ll admit I was a little surprised. We learned later in the weekend that you’re only ever fifteen minutes away from the great outdoors if you live in Sheffield. Pretty impressive.

We easily navigated our way to the NCP, making sure to admire all the beautiful buildings that lined the main street. Just a two minute walk from the Arundel Gate NCP car park and you’ll reach the fabulous Mercure St. Pauls Hotel, our resting house for the night.

 

The hotel

Ok, so the few Mercure’s that I’ve come across over the last few years have been quite unattractive from the outside, but I learnt from my first visit that you should never judge a book by its cover. And that definitely holds true once you walk into the Mercure St Pauls. It’s not bad from the outside but just how sleek and sophisticated it was on the inside really took me by surprise. The main restaurant and bar area sits side by side with the spectacular Winter Gardens, creating an urban oasis type of space.

 

 

Everything from the creative light diffusers to the steel nature inspired wall art, it was fabulous. There was so much natural light and space?

 

 

Oh, the space! It was open plan and they had done a great job of the floorplan. On Saturday there were families, there was a wedding, QPR football club were having breakfast and there was us bloggers, we were all there co-existing in this big open space and it worked?

 

 

The room

Ooh, it was so comfortable! good sized bed, very clean, modern, minimalist…

My favourite part was the bathroom, if I’m honest. There was a large tub, also a separate large walk-in shower – both rain and hand-held options (the dream) and amazing White Company ‘Noir’ toiletries!!!

 

 

As this was a bloggers trip, we did have a number of lovely little treats left for us too. Jelly beans went down a treat with the family when we got back, chocolate made for a great pre-dinner snack, but I’ll be honest the best thing they left for us in the room was an information pack on the sights and snippets of history of Sheffield. It was really interesting! (Check out my post on the sights of Sheffield for more)

 

 

There were a lot of neat little things we noticed about the room – I loved the aux lead for music, sockets by the bedside, nespresso machine and pillow mist! For ultimate relaxation 🙂

 

 

The facilities

Unfortunately, Mo and I couldn’t stay too long at the hotel so we didn’t get to enjoy all the facilities. We did get the chance to have a quick nosey round. There’s so much to see! I couldn’t actually believe how much was going on all in one weekend. As we walked towards the spa and fitness suites there was a corridor of meeting rooms… all being set up for different events. They all looked spotless, professional and the staff, well they looked completely calm and in control. I didn’t take any pics of the facilities, mainly as we didn’t actually get the opportunity to use them so it would be unfair for me to comment. Something to save for next time…

 

The food

It was good. Ok anyone who serves grilled halloumi as a starter is usually onto a winner. Again, I had high expectations for the food as the meal we had at the Mercure in Manchester was delicious. If I had one criticism, it was that my butternut squash risotto portion was far too large and not quite as punchy in the flavour department as I would have expected. Mo’s order of pan-fried cod loin however, was exquisite. The white fish wasn’t overcooked, it wasn’t over seasoned and the crushed new potatoes it perched on was divine. A truly great all rounder dish. By the time rhubarb and polenta cake dessert arrived I was too full to stomach anymore, but I had to have a taste, if anything to decide whether or not I liked rhubarb. I’ve never been a real fan but this gingery spiced sponge was a dessert I would happily re-order.

 

 

Breakfast the next day, was exactly how every good hotel breakfast should be. Lots of options, fresh tea and coffee but the best part was having a window seat to the Winter Garden of course. It was like our own private garden view.

After receiving a bottle in our goody bag, I decided to experiment with the famous Sheffield born relish, splashing it here and there to see what it worked with. Personally I enjoyed using it as an additional topping to my breakfast egg and bean tower (worked a treat 😉 )

 

 

Afternoon tea was very grand indeed. Showcased on a very unusual, very large display case. Let’s be brutally honest, afternoon tea is not going to be wildly different unless you’re opting for a themed one. It’s usually easier to say what’s wrong rather than what’s right. And in this case, I had nothing to really complain about. Maybe that I’m not really a fan of any type of fruit puree and it was atop of one of the desserts? I did end up liking that actually, so ignore that comment. Ok maybe the only thing I wasn’t happy about was that the scone had raisins and I am not a fan of raisins.

(Yes, yes I can feel you reading this and scolding me for expecting scones to not have raisins)

 

 

The location

Wow, what a great location! Car park was close by, easy access from the motorway and we were able to walk straight out and see the sights. After a good night’s sleep, part of our adventure was embarking on a walking tour. I originally wanted to include what we saw in this post but I thought instead I share some highlight photos and instead wrote a separate one on all the fun you can find in this city.

Two of the bloggers on the tour with us were Sheffield locals, and it was so nice to hear them speak so passionately about their own home town. There was a real sense of pride in what their city could offer us (they also had a lot of knowledge on its history between them) it made Mo and I feel all the more privileged to be able to visit and appreciate it.

 

 

The verdict?

All in all this was probably one of the best blogger weekends Mo and I have ever had. Not only were we treated to a relaxing nights stay in a great city, but this experience had introduced us to some really awesome new friends. As we get older and as Mo and I have started attending many more networking events, we have met lots and lots of new people. But it’s only very rarely that you bump into folk that actually become great friends. We were so fortunate to have randomly sat with two bloggers that turned out to be just that. We got on so well we were the last ones left at the meal… and probably amongst the last few in the hotel lounge after we were moved on. Sight-seeing on Sunday introduced us to more new friends and again so did afternoon tea.

New friends for us, obviously means I also have new blogs to read and I of course recommend you check them out too: The uber-trendy Oli at Suede and Symphony (I’ve been following Oli for some time); Tracey, naughtyfortydiaries, who claims she’s in her forties but doesn’t look a day over thirty and David, at dktravelpix who’s photography skills are truly spectacular. We also got to know local lass Sue had us constantly yearning to know more about the citys history and Olivia made for fab company during afternoon tea, as we exchanged tales of our travels.

I can’t actually think of anything to complain about on this trip and I genuinely think Mo and I will return to Sheffield one day, if only to lace up our walking shoes and venture to the countryside in the outskirts. I’d happily pick the Mercure as our base though, can’t think of a more perfect place for an apres-hike massage.

Memories are only memories if something memorable happens. I’m always grateful that even when something goes wrong on a trip, Mo and I are able to laugh and embrace it as these are the moments that truly make great tales. But sometimes having everything go right can make an even greater one.

So, a blogger weekend in Sheffield they said, and fun it well and truly was!!

 

 

*** Thank you to the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel for arranging this fantastic weekend and taking such good care of us. Of course as per usual all opinions are completely my own and no pictures have been filtered, in fact all were taken using my phone camera and haven’t had any adjustment. ***

 

Have you ever stayed at a Mercure hotel? Where else in the UK would you recommend for an unexpected city break? 

 

 

Follow:

 

What do you think about Sheffield? Have you ever thought about visiting?

I had never been. It never even crossed my radar as a place to visit. I was born in Yorkshire, I have lots and lots of family there and I also went to Uni in Leeds. But nothing has ever pulled me into seeing the sights of Sheffield.

What would we even do?

We had been invited by the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel to not only stay in their fabulous hotel, but to explore the surrounding area and see exactly what Sheffield had to offer.

 

 

You know what… it’s surprisingly cool! It was so cool I’ve had to split my originally planned post into two and dedicate an entire space to some of my favourite spots uncovered during our walking tour:

 

The Winter Gardens

Oh boy did I fall in love with this place. The BEST thing about the Mercure hotel is it sits right alongside it, it has its very own entrance to walk into the garden too. When we arrived late on Friday I was mesmerised by this giant conservatory and of course it was the first place we visited after breakfast the next morning.

 

 

It’s home to over 2500 plants from all over the world and is one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK. Tall palms, throngs of bamboo and beautifully curved tree ferns were just some of my favourite foliage in this urban paradise. And right in the centre was this giant weird familiar looking structure, which made me WOW out loud. What is it? What is it?!?! I jumped up and down screeching at Mo, only to discover this familiar looking piece of art was in fact: E Coli. Five million times bigger than actual e coli, this installation was unveiled as part of Sheffield university’s Krebsfest, a festival to celebrate the life and works of the university’s Nobel prize winner Sir Hans Krebs.

 

 

I can imagine this is a perfect place to read a book, find tranquility, breathe in some vital oxygen whilst you’re out and about on a city break. You’ll also find there’s a gallery and some quirky shops too, I’m told they are pop up stores. Luckily for us the pop-up store on our visit was one that showcased local creatives’ handiwork. My favourite kind of pop-up 🙂

 

 

Town Hall and the stars of Sheffield

Dating back to the late 1800’s (I believe, don’t quote me on that) the town hall in Sheffield is very, very grand. The day we parked up outside we saw weddings, there was a fair outside and the building itself was basking in rays of sun beams looking incredibly majestic. Definitely made for a great bloggers photo opp.

But even though the building tempts you to look up, make sure you look down too and discover some of the famous stars of Sheffield, on their very own floor of fame.

 

 

Sheffields answer to Gaudi

I don’t know what it’s called or what it’s for, but when Sue told us to keep an eye out for Sheffields answer to the fabulous Antonio Gaudi I knew instantly this was it when we saw it. Ok it’s no Parc Guell, but on a sunny day there’s no denying its a fantastic space and it did make me giggle.

 

 

The shop for people like me who don’t like shops

I LOVE this shop! Mo made us go in and I wanted to buy everything. It was so cute and quirky and any place with a cat face plate and starry silk scarves gets my seal of approval. That and the beautifully handmade cards and artwork too.

 

 

Sheffield Cathedral

Religious buildings are so exciting to visit. I love seeing how different they all are, yet how they follow the same basic guidelines. Cathedrals are always great on a sunny day because of all the stained glass. Sheffield cathedral still kept all it’s old character, with a slightly new addition and extension to it’s side. No matter what religion you are, walking into a place of worship is usually a very humbling experience, especially when it’s being used at the time and you are fortunate to witness others in prayer.

 

 

Unusual architecture and beautiful old buildings

There were so many unusually shaped buildings, Mo was rather embarrassed that I was even gushing over the job centre, but Im such a fan of traditional architecture and I have a real love for Yorkshire stone. I was very much in my element.

Once thing that really stood out as we wandered the streets was how clean it was in comparison to so many other UK cities. And also how spacious and calm it felt. We were on our walking tour early afternoon on a Saturday and not once were we thrust into a crowd of people, having to elbow our way down a high street or constantly play frogger to avoid rushing shoppers. It made for a refreshing change from a Saturday in Manchester!

 

 

The Women of Steel

Steel is very much emblazoned in the city’s history. And I love that the council commissioned a fabulous statue to celebrate the contribution of women to the industry during the World Wars.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise that Sheffield shot to International fame because of its part in the steel industry. In fact, Sheffield produced more steel last year than they ever have done in the city’s history (definitely would never have guessed that).

 

 

And if all this isn’t enough to tempt you here’s a few other inspiring things we learnt over the weekend from our sources at Mercure and local lasses Sue and Tracey:

  • Sheffields Theatre Quarter has the largest concentration of theatres within a square mile outside of London
  • It’s Englands greenest city, where half of the population live within 15 minutes of open countryside
  • Look out for the herd of Sheffield, a trail of 58 elephants dotted around the city, we found a few thanks to our local girl guides
  • Sheffield Football club is apparently the world’s oldest football club and Sheffield is the place where the rule of the game were first drawn up.
  • During the World Snooker Championships, the Winter Gardens is usually where they hold all their interviews, look out for it next time it’s on!

 

So what do you think? I mean don’t you agree there’s just so much to love about Sheffield?

 

 

*** Thank you to the Mercure St. Paul’s Hotel for inviting us to explore this great city. As per my last disclaimer, all photos are only brightness adjusted and all of these happen to have been taken on my phone! So hopefully it gives you a true outlook on this fab city ***

 

 

Have you been to Sheffield? What did you think? I’d love to explore the surrounding countryside next time, so do share any tips you have xx

 

 

Follow: